Knowledge Center

Work-Life: Prevalence, Utilization, and Benefits

Work-life effectiveness (WLE), is an important tool to help organizations create more inclusive work environments for women and business as well as to promote cultural transformations that change workplaces and change lives. WLE helps organizations and individuals to challenge old assumptions about work and who/what constitutes the “ideal employee,” allowing for a broader range of work behaviors and styles among both women and men. 



  • *The Catalyst study Women and Men in U.S. Corporate Leadership: Same Workplace, Different Realities? found that although senior-level women and men showed high interest in informal and formal flexible work arrangements, actual utilization of many arrangements was low:
    • 44% of women used flexible arrival/departure time, compared to 36% of men.1
    • 13% of women telecommuted/worked from home, compared to 12% of men.2
    • 9% of women and men could change their work locations ad hoc.3
    • 1% of men and women used a reduced work schedule or worked part-time.4
    • 91% of women and 94% of men agreed that they could be flexible with their schedules when they had a family emergency or personal matter, but only 15% of women and 20% of men agreed that they could use a flexible work arrangement without jeopardizing career advancement.5
  • According to the 2006 Catalyst Member Benchmarking Report, high percentages of Catalyst Award-winning organizations offered flexible work arrangements:
    • 100% offered reduced work weeks and adoption leave/assistance.6
    • 96% offered flexible arrival and departure times and telecommuting.7
    • 89% offered compressed work weeks and job sharing.8
  • The Families and Work Institute’s 2012 National Study of Employers had numerous findings about flexibility:
  • When comparing data from 2005 and 2012, the study found that two measures had increased significantly during that time:
    • 39% allowed "some employees" to change their start and quit times daily compared to 34% in 2005.
    • 41% in 2012 allowed "some employees" to move from full-time to part-time and back again while remaining in the same position or level, a decrease from 54% in 2005.9
  • In a large talent management survey of the values of pipeline and senior leaders in Europe, U.S. and Asia conducted by Catalyst and Families and Work Institute, "having a supportive work environment" ranked first for women and men and "having a good fit between life on and off the job" ranked third.10
  • Pipeline leaders ranked both values higher than senior leaders, which may explain why senior leaders may not be able to understand the perspectives of leaders in the pipeline on work life issues.11
  • The 2011 Employee Benefits Survey from the Society for Human Resource Management reported what percentage human resource professional said particular benefits were offered at their organizations:
    • Flextime: 53%12
    • Telecommuting on an ad-hoc basis: 45%13
    • Compressed workweek: 35%14
    • Telecommuting on a part-time basis: 34%15
    • Job sharing: 13%16
  • In Canada, in January 2012:
    • Of all people employed, 20.1% worked part-time.17
    • Women are 66.7% of all those who work part-time.18
    • Of all people in management occupations, 7.1% work part-time.19
    • Women were 43.5% of those in management occupations working part-time.20
    • Of all people working in senior management occupations (a sub-set of management occupations), 9.1% work part-time.21
    • Women were 34.5% of those in senior management occupations who worked part-time.22

Elder Care

  • The Families and Work Institute’s 2012 National Study of Employers found that many companies provided time off for elder care:
    • 75% of employers say that they provide paid or unpaid time off for employees to provide elder care without risking their jobs.23
    • Over 41% of employers offered information about services for elder family members.24
    • A survey by The Society for Human Resource Management found that 9% of employers offered elder care referral services, and 2% offered backup elder care services.25

Child Care

  • *The Families and Work Institute’s 2012 National Study of Employers looked at child care:
    • 18% of large employers (1,000+ employees) offered child care at or near the worksite, compared to 5% of small employers (50-99 employees). 26
    • 61% or large employers offer access to information to help locate community child care, compared to 29% of small employers.27
    • 84% of large employers offered Dependent Care Assistance Plans (help employees pay for child care with pre-tax dollars) compared to 53% of small employers.28
    • 7% of large employers offer back-up or emergency child care compared to 2% of small employers.29
    • In 2012, DCAPs increased to 62% from 45% in 2005 while fewer employers offered back-up emergency care and sick care in 2012 (3%) than in 2005 (6%).30
  • According to the SHRM 2011 Benefits Survey,
    • 30% of organizations surveyed permitted employees to bring a child to work in an emergency, and31
    • 17% offered a childcare referral service.32

Other Family Friendly Benefits

  • The Families and Work Institute 2012 survey found that the average maximum job-guaranteed leave for men following the birth of their child was 10.6 weeks (11.9 for adoption). 33 Note, however, that availability does not equal utilization, and the study found that 21% of employers (large) appear to be out of compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). 34
  • The 2011 Benefits Survey from the Society for Human Resource Management analyzed what percentage of particular benefits human resource professionals said were offered at their organizations:
    • Paid family leave: 25%35
    • Family leave above and beyond required by federal FMLA leave: 21%36
    • Family leave above and beyond required by state FMLA leave: 18%37
    • On-site lactation/mother’s rooms: 28%38

Culture, Resources, Training, and Accountability

  • According to The Families and Work Institute’s 2012 National Study of Employers:

Statement about Organizational Culture

Response = "Very True"

Train supervisors in responding to work family needs of employees.39


When making performance appraisals and compensation decisions, how well supervisors/managers manage flexible work arrangement is a factor.40


Percentage of employers that believe supervisors are encouraged to be supportive of employees with family needs.41


Employers that state supervisors are encouraged to assess employees’ performance by what they accomplish and not by "face time."42


Employers who said that the organization makes a real and ongoing effort to inform employees of available assistance for managing work and family responsibilities.43


Employers who said that management rewards those who support effective flexible work arrangements.44



Effects of Offering Flexible Work Options to Professional Employees45

OutcomesOverall Workplace Flexibility
Job Satisfaction


Job Engagement


Likelihood to Remain in Job for Next Year 



















Dual-Career Couples

  • *In 2011, 47.5% of married couples were dual-career couples, down from 47.8% in 2010.46
  • One study demonstrated how working mothers (and fathers) struggled with work-life balance:
    • In recent years, men’s levels of work-life conflict have risen from 34% in 1977 to 49% in 2008.47
    • Women have also experienced an increase in work-life conflict, though not as drastic; 34% in 1977 to 43% in 2008. 48
  • In addition, working mothers spent 3.8 hours per workday with their children, compared to 3 hours for working fathers.49

Benefits to Organizations

  • Many companies using employee surveys found that flexible work arrangements and work-life balance is extremely important among their employees.
  • 83% of Ernst & Young Canadian employees responding to a survey said that they would recommend Ernst & Young as a place to work as it relates to its flexibility.50
  • 96% of respondents to an AstraZeneca employee survey said their decision to stay at AstraZeneca was the flexibility. 51
  • Deloitte estimates they have saved $41.5 million in 2003 from potential turnover-related costs from employees who say they would have left the firm without their flexible work arrangements.52
  • 95% of employees at Discovery Communications say flexible work arrangements were a "critical factor" when taking their job.53
  • 1 in 5 of employees hired in the past three years at Bristol-Myers Squibb say flexibility was a factor in their decision to join Bristol-Myers Squibb.54
  • Eli Lilly discovered a direct linear relationship between job satisfaction and the amount of job flexibility the employee has.55
  • A research study of CPAs at large accounting firms found the following:
  • Professionals working under a flexible working arrangements exhibited lower levels of depersonalization and emotional exhaustion, which is the first step toward burnout.56
  • Job satisfaction among professionals under a flexible work arrangement was significantly greater than among professionals under a standard work arrangement.57
  • The intentions to stay with the firm long-term were stronger among professionals under a flexible work arrangement than among professionals under a standard work arrangement.58




  • Across OECD countries, 12% of male employees work very long hours compared to less than 5% of women. 59
  • Long work hours may impair health and increase stress. 60


  • In China, the One-Child policy implemented in the 1980s has had an impact on work-life with smaller household sizes and child-dependency ratios. 61
  • The public sector has invested heavily in childcare programs for working mothers. The accessibility of low-cost childcare and extended family networks provide resources for both mothers and fathers to manage work and family responsibilities. 62
  • Filial piety, the love, respect and responsibility to care for one’s parents is a strong influence and impacts work life. 63
  • In a recent Catalyst Study, Expanding Work-Life Perspectives: Talent Management in China, 77% of respondents working in China said that their workplace flexibility does not meet their work-life needs. 64
    • 56% of male respondents and 51% of female respondents rated managing work and personal life as "easy."65


  • In India, the most common arrangement for child-care is help from extended families. 66
  • A 2006 ACNielsen poll reported 74% of Indian respondents want a better home-work balance. 67
  • In a recent Catalyst Study, Expanding Work-Life Perspectives: Talent Management in India, women reported higher levels of difficulty managing work-life compared to men. 68
    • 61% of men rated managing work and personal life as "easy" to them. 69
    • 90% of women reported that the workplace does NOT meet their work-life needs. 70


  • Between 2003 and 2008 the number of women workers in the 6 largest metropolitan centers grew to 44.7% from 20.6% but the amount of time women spent caring for family and household chores did not decrease. 71
  • Daughters and daughters-in-law, are the primary caregivers of the elderly but in exchange, in many multi-generation households, grandparents care for the children (more than half of full time working mothers in Brazil rely on parents or in-laws for their childcare).72 73
  • 69% of women have responsibilities caring for elderly relatives and one-third provide financial support to their parents.74
  • Workplaces with more than 30 female employees must provide a location for childcare when mothers are still breastfeeding.75


  • Part-time work as one option to improve work life has been increasing in EU countries over the past 15 years (although some are involuntary part –time workers). The countries with the highest percentages of part time employment in 2005: The Netherlands 46%; United Kingdom 25%; and Denmark 24%.76
    • The Netherlands promotes a "two-track" policy in an effort to promote and enhance the quality of part-time work. 89 percent of workplaces in the Netherlands have part time employees in the work force. 77
    • In Belgium, the parental leave provisions include returning to work part-time for a set time frame. The most popular option is the four day work week (20 percent reduction in working time). 78
  • In Europe, a worker’s satisfaction with work-life decreases with the number of children living at home (27.3% of women with no children at home report satisfaction with work life compared to 20.2% with 3 or more children at home). 79
  • Across the 29 OECD countries, men on average have a half hour more daily of leisure time. 80

How to cite this product: Catalyst. Catalyst Quick Take: Work-Life: Prevalence, Utilization, and Benefits. New York: Catalyst, 2012.